EU’s “Illegal” Airline Emissions Law?

The European Union (EU) has delayed enforcing its Airline emissions law that penalizes airlines that do not adhere to carbon dioxide emission limitations imposed by the EU.  The postponement only applies to non U.S. airlines, a likely result of the criticism of the EU law as being unilateral and threatening to the sovereignty of other countries.  The United States Congress recently approved a Senate Bill that allows the Transportation Secretary, in the public interest, to exempt U.S. airlines from the EU emission law.  The members of the U.S. government urge that the action taken by the House and Senate does not indicate that they are not considered with the environmental impacts of airline emissions.  The objection is to the seemingly abrasive and unilateral decision of EU to begin this initiative without regard for a global solution.  Senator McCaskill is quoted in the below referenced article as saying, “The EU’s announcement still does not recognize that its system is illegal and that a global solution, not just one deemed acceptable by the EU, must be the path forward.”

The EU regulation allows airlines with flights going into and out of Europe a certain allowable level of carbon dioxide emission.   In the event an airline should exceed the allowable amount, the airline can purchase more credits and airlines with emissions below the threshold may sell credits representing the lower emissions.  U.S. airlines have criticized the EU program for attempting to penalize the airlines for emissions that would not occur on European territory.  The International Civil Aviation Organization is scheduled to meet in next October and it is hoped that an international agreement can be reached in addressing the emissions from aircraft.  The EU will continue to postpone the enforcement of its unilateral program through that meeting.

It seems fairly evident that the EU was overzealous in attempting to extend these regulations to non EU airlines.  Is the proposed method of limiting emissions, however, a sound and feasible approach?

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One comment

  1. Personally, I think that the debate over the EU’s cap and trade program has been grossly mischaracterized in the United States. Contrary to holding the U.S. “hostage,” the EU should have the right to regulate air traffic that enters and exits its sovereign territories. The complaint that non-EU airlines will have to pay for emissions that occur outside of the EU’s airspace on its way to European destinations is a purposefully misleading argument. Greenhouse gas emissions are not local pollutants like mercury, lead, or particulate matter: they saturate the atmosphere in such a way that the carbon concentration over Paris is the same as it is over D.C., L.A., and Honolulu. For this reason, it makes perfect sense that the EU would want to regulate emissions that occur because of travel to and from Europe. The notion that the regulation of emissions from airlines might be contrary to the public interest is likely a distortion of the issue propagated by tax hawks, climate change deniers, and airline companies that do not want to pay for one of the costliest forms of waste that they produce: CO2.

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